How to Install a Clutch Cable on a Motorcycle

Your clutch cable is pivotal to the performance of your motorcycle. Without it, your bike wouldn’t be able to change gear. It’s therefore incredibly important you maintain and look after your clutch cable, otherwise you just wouldn’t be able to ride your bike – which is undoubtedly every rider’s worst nightmare!

Unfortunately, clutch cables aren’t for life. Overtime and after repeated use they will stretch and become worn, damaged, and frayed. Damaged motorcycle clutch cables can be difficult to operate and are likely to reduce your comfort and control, so it’s crucial you replace them.

In this guide from the Venhill team, we explain how to replace and install a clutch cable on your motorcycle. But first let us explain why clutch cables need replacing as well as provide guidance on how often you should look to replace them.

Why Replace Your Motorcycle Clutch Cable?

As already touched upon, the condition of your clutch cable will naturally wear and deteriorate while riding your bike, especially if it hasn’t been maintained regularly. The constant stress of the cable sliding back and forth within the outer casing causes it to wear and fray, which will eventually lead to a snapped cable.

Even if the cable isn’t broken yet, a stretched and worn cable can make the operation of your clutch very tough. And once a cable begins to fail, it is only a matter of time before it fails completely.

When Should You Replace Your Motorcycle Clutch Cable?

Your owner’s manual should address all the relevant information you need when it comes to cable replacement. This will provide guidance as to when you can expect your clutch cable to reach the end of its lifespan. Riders who put their bike under more pressure – such as dirt bike riders – tend to require changing cables more commonly than those who just use their bike to ride round town.

However, it is worthwhile getting into a frequent habit of visually inspecting your clutch cable. A quality cable should last a minimum of two of years, but regardless, it’s a good idea to check them routinely. At the very least, be sure to check before undertaking long journeys.

Take time to inspect them for cracks or signs of corrosion and look out for any areas that are particularly worn due to rubbing. The more often you check your bike and the more familiar you are with it, the easier it is to spot any potential problems.

You can also get an idea of the condition of your clutch cable by simply pulling the clutch lever. If it pulls through smoothly and consistently returns to its original position, then it is probably in good condition. On the other hand, if the lever is stiff or your gear changes aren’t smooth, then that is a sign the cable is damaged or needs lubricating.

It is worth highlighting that cables may need replacing without showing clear exterior damage. For instance, the outer conduit may look perfectly fine, but the inner wire could be frayed. Any problems controlling the bike could suggest compromised cable performance, whether that be clutch, brake or throttle cable.

If in any doubt, seek the opinion of an expert. They’ll be able to run some quick tests and inspect the condition of your clutch cable, providing guidance on whether it needs replacing or not.

How to Choose the Best Clutch Cable

If your clutch cable does need replacing, then it’s vital you purchase a suitable and high-quality replacement. You’ll want to find premium cables that last the test of time and are unlikely to require replacing any time soon – stainless steel wiring and PTFE ‘Teflon’ lined conduit are our favourite clutch cable materials, lasting much longer than other regular cables.

You’ll also need to make sure you select a cable that fits perfectly to your bike. Bikes come in all shapes and sizes so be sure to purchase the correct one. The easiest way to do this is to check whether you are using a cable built to the original specs of the bike, or if it has been increased or decreased in length to accommodate a change such as higher or lower bars. Original Equipment Manufacturer (often referred to as OEM) made cables often have a part number printed in white somewhere on the black outer conduit which can be used to help identify your part. These numbers are usually a segment of the whole pater number and sometime also include manufacturer batch number information. See our OEM part number guide for more info.

At Venhill, we specialise in manufacturing the highest quality motorcycle clutch cables for modern and classic motorbikes. Manufactured in our UK factory (which is ISO 9001 certified to assure quality), we use the finest components and production techniques for all our products. We can even make something bespoke if you have a special requirement.

Find your clutch cable in our part-finder here>

How to Change, Replace & Install Your Motorcycle’s Clutch Cable

Step 1 – Remove Existing Cable

You need to have clear access to the clutch cable, so in the first instance you may be required to remove any components that prevent you from reaching the cable. This might include the clutch lever screw or the engine cover.

Once you have access to the cable, you need to loosen its tension and remove it. To do this, you’ll need to remove the nuts, brackets or clips holding the cable in place.

Once the cable becomes slack, you’ll be able to remove it.

Step 2 – Lubricate New Cable

You’ll need to lubricate the new clutch cable before you install it. This helps to prolong its life and reduces the risk of it locking up or breaking. We recommend only using motorcycle-specific lubricant products on the cable, particularly on any moving or pivoting parts, such as the lever barrel.

Step 3 – Install New Cable

You are now able to attach the new cable and fasten in place. Be careful to ensure you route the new cable along the same path as the old cable. You should also leave a gap between the cable and any heat source and keep ties loose to allow the cable to move.

Fine tuning may be required near the clutch lever, adjusting the slack and free play as required. You can use a ruler to measure the millimetres you can depress the lever (you can find the set number of millimetres of free play on your bike’s lever before it begins to engage the clutch in your service manual’s guidelines).

Buy Motorcycle Clutch Cables with Venhill

If you’re looking to buy a new motorcycle clutch cable, be sure to browse our online range here at Venhill. We’ve been making replacement cables for motorbikes since 1970, so are sure to be able to help.

Or if you’d like advice about which cable is right for you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our motorcycle cable experts today. We’ll be more than happy to provide recommendations based on you and your bike.

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